Since when has an abusive relationship been romantic?

So I’m currently reading a historical romance novel, set in the early 19th century in England. And while I know that women back then had literally no rights (they either belonged to their fathers, or their husbands), this novel infuriates me at a level that few have done before (and the novel itself is a pretty good read, even though there are some mistakes like missing words).

It is one of those novels where a man meets a woman and decides that what she is doing is not right, so he stalks her and forbids her to continue (note: at this point, he is a mere stranger to her!). He repeatedly uses sexual assault to shut her up and to stop her from arguing with him, which (and that’s what infuriates me) makes her slowly fall in love with him, and want him. Like, wtf? Girl, he is forcing himself onto you, kissing you against your will while you’re angry at him, groping you without your consent, and you melt in his arms? Really?

So he manages to marry her (which, after they have been caught in above situation by her aunt and uncle, is what her relatives want anyway because she could be ruined otherwise), without her having as much as a say in it. She basically learns about the impeding marriage an hour before it is set!  And the worst part: She feels guilty that he “had” to marry her because of the situation “she” put him in–no, girl, he put himself into that situation, and he wanted you, so it worked out just fine for him.

During the short time of their marriage that we follow in the story, he orders her to stop worrying (about a death threat to her and her family, that she had tried to take care of before he entered her life), and gets angry when she finally brings it up again after a month(!) of not saying anything because he sees it as a sign she doesn’t trust him to keep her safe. He manipulates her into finally letting the topic go and handing back her pistol to him, her only way of self-defense, because she wants him to believe that she does trust him.

After a bad argument, she crawls into her own bed only for him to come storming in and forcing her back to his bed because he doesn’t want her to sleep away from him. During the night, she wakes up to find his side of the bed empty, so “of course”, she feels guilty and broken-hearted because she thinks he couldn’t stand staying in bed with her, that she made him flee their bed. So she tries to find him to make sure he still loves her, because she can’t stand the thought of losing him. Because she deeply loves him. Yep, after all that he’s done to her, she loves him.

She finds him and finally finds out his dark secret (of course, he’s a broken man that needs her to fix him, which she mentions to the reader will be her life-long goal from now on), the reason he behaved like a complete asshole towards her every time she asked about his childhood.

Later that night, he apparently has sex with her while she is sleeping (she didn’t know whether it had been a dream or reality because she never fully woke up). And she smiles at that memory. Seriously? Glorifying rape? He had sex with her in a situation where she was unable to consent, which is classified as rape, end of story! Even if it wasn’t illegal (her being his wife and so on) in the time the story is set, glorifying it in the story sets a completely wrong signal to readers! He. Raped. Her. And she was happy about it…are you kidding me?

Oh yeah, and then there was a situation where he completely misunderstood the situation (because, duh, why ask before jumping to conclusions?) and almost broke her wrist in his anger, making her scream out in pain, and a few pages later she thinks back to how she had been afraid he’d brake her wrist, but she should have known he’d never hurt her. Um, newsflash, girl, he just did hurt you! You screamed in pain because of what he did to you. Remember?

This whole relationship between the two, right from the beginning, is a classical example of an abusive relationship. He, the poor broken man that needs his wife to fix him, and whose asshole behaviour and abuse are explained away and forgiven because of his bad childhood, and whose wife fully believes she loves him and it is her fault if he treats her badly… I really wanted to punch this guy in the face, and then shake her and scream at her to run away from him, to wake up and see what’s really going on.

For the record: This type of relationship is NOT romantic, and is NOT healthy! And no, that is NOT love on his part, it is a need to possess her and to control her life.

Seriously, romance writers, STOP ROMANTICISING ABUSE!

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2 thoughts on “Since when has an abusive relationship been romantic?

  1. It’s set in the 19th century. To expect such a novel to conform to 21st century ideas of what does or does not constitute abuse is ridiculous. To do so would be inaccurate for the setting. If you want to read a novel that has modern ideas about abusive relationships, then read a novel with a modern setting.

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    1. It is set in the 19th century, yes, but what the heroine does is not really what women in that time did every day either. Plus, I doubt that women in any period enjoyed being abused. There are many who accept such a behaviour because they are led to believe it is normal and somehow their fault. From a heroine declared to be a strong woman, though, I do expect to call out jerks, and not to fall in love with them even though (or probably I should say because) they abuse and manipulate them. The label “strong woman” is usually used for someone who’s supposed to be a role model, and to have a role model accept an abusive relationship as the love of her life and what she wants for herself, to me, is absolutely wrong.

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